About Our Township

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History

The land of Conestoga Township is geographically located in the Piedmont Lowland section of the Piedmont Province. It is in the southwest quadrant of Lancaster County. Its western boundary is the Susquehanna River. The area has been inhabited by successive migrations of Native Americans since the Prehistoric Archaic Period (8,000 – 5,000 B.C.). When the first European explorers came here in the late 17th century, it was inhabited by the Susquehannocks who gave us the word Conestoga, which means village or town in their language. The river, which forms the township’s northern boundary bears this name.

The township was formed in 1712 as a township in Chester County that covered all of the current Lancaster County. Lancaster County was formed in 1729 and Conestoga Township covered the current township plus what is now Pequea Township. The village of Conestoga is the township seat. Lancaster County’s first court session was held at Postlethwaite’s Tavern, Long Lane on 5 August, 1729. This site and its environs was originally the chosen location for developing the City of Lancaster; the City was founded elsewhere in 1733.

The name Conestoga has become part of American History, thanks to the romanticizing of the wagon that bears its name. It cannot be factually substantiated that the first Conestoga Wagons were ever built here; later, some were.

Conestoga Township’s Colorful 19th Century industrial and economic history included an iron foundry (incidentally iron foundry superintendent John Griffin invented a cannon barrel that bears his name. These cannons were first manufactured at Safe Harbor and used by the Union Army in the Civil War. St. Mary’s Mission Church was founded at Safe Harbor to minister to the spiritual needs of the Irish and Italian Laborers. On occasion, Bishop John Newman (now St. John Newman) traveled from Philadelphia to the little Safe Harbor Church to conduct services in 1833, 1856, 1857 and 1859. Today, only the cemetery remains.

Kenneth M. Hoak
President/Curator
Conestoga Area Historical Society